March-May 2021

Three by 3 of December 2020-February 2021 reprised Scruples, numbers 7 thru 9.  As promised, there’s more to come!  Numbers 10 thru 12 are a continuation, along with readings of two of them. (Author’s note: number 10 was originally posted March-May 2016. The reprise is slightly edited in terms of format and word choice).

All told: “The idea of scruples has to do with ethics and morality: what is right and wrong. Scruples are a kind of moral compass that lets you know what’s right.”  ( )



Today was meant for me
                   to find a starfish                                                                                                             with seven arms, another   
                                   map stowed in a bottle,
                                             a mixed bag of old coins…                                             

The best beachcombing comes
                      after a storm;
                           as soon as the tide lies low,
                                   more and more
                                            flotsam shows up…

Whatever does can make
                     any day’s luck good
                            or bad… sometimes both.



Honey—a bunch of Huns
                   is heading this way—
                           astride the mountain road,
                                                raging at full gallop.

While I fetch the wagon,
                    take a last, fast look
                             around—make the load
                                                  good and light.

Those fiends won’t find
                      a soul to greet them,
                               much less do their bidding.
If all goes well, we’ll ferry
                       the river by dark,
                                hide on the safe side…
Elsewhere, only a miracle
                         can save our home,
                                 sweet home, from                                                                                                                                                                   the likes of them.



Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder?

How much depends
on the way it’s concocted—
in a half filled glass, with
or without water, one
to three lumps of sugar.

As for when, anise tastes
bitter from the first sip…
After a few more, spirits
fresh out of the bottle 
serve memories right, stir up
mixed feelings.

December 2020-February 2021

Three by 3 of September-November reprised Scruples, numbers 4 thru 6.  As promised, there would be more to come!  Numbers 7 thru 9 are the continuation. What’s new are my readings of them.  (Click on the play icon to initiate).

All told: “The idea of scruples has to do with ethics and morality: what is right and wrong. Scruples are a kind of moral compass that lets you know what’s right.”  ( )



Bigfoot is back in season, should
     show up the more it snows,
             leaving fresh tracks
                   there and then.
After a while, trails will
      appear, clear cut
             enough to follow.

Mounting a search party
      takes some choosing.
Members must be as brave
           as savvy, able bodied, get
               along well, willing to bear
                        the burden of proof.

Once mustered, our mission
        is to make contact
              with this man,
                       beast, or both.
If it looks harmless and
        waves a white flag,
                so much the better.



Too bad for the jar
of jellybeans
on the top shelf,
as a cat
with a sweet tooth
shows up, all
at once, out
of curiosity.
Worse comes soon
after, when
he starts pawing
around, by
and large, closer,

Their worst off
would be
if, in due time,
he devours
the strawberries,
key limes,
every cherry,
a whole lot
of tutti fruttis.



After a while the fountain appears,
        as moving as ever, water galore
from the mouths of cherubs
         streaming into a pool.
The coins come from elsewhere,
         airborne, toss ups
that started out as small change.

They lie, by chance, scattered
         about, some sparkling
like new, others mistaken
         for moss.
Those down the drain, sight
         unseen, might
be twinkling in the dark.


September-November 2020

Three by 3 of June-August 2020 reprised Scruples, numbers 1 thru 3.  As promised, there would be more forthcoming.  Numbers 4 thru 6 are the continuation.

All told: “The idea of scruples has to do with ethics and morality: what is right and wrong. Scruples are a kind of moral compass that lets you know what’s right.”  ( )


At first, the youth
could barely twitter his flute…
He’d need years of practice
to grow up,
                into a musician.

One of the streams in the forest
                                    edged a glade.
Kindred spirits gathered there.
While he soloed, they chirped, croaked,
even hissed.

His pluck and striving
                           pleased the gods.
They´d never overheard a mortal so hip
                           at such a tender age.
Only Dionysus didn´t listen. No
           boy could play
country like his kid, Pan.



The rules of this boardinghouse’re
                                        etched in stone.
We can’t miss the tablets—
                                         they stand on
eye level shelves in the parlor—
             one for does,
                       the other donts.

Our landlord lets rooms to strangers.
                      He’s in the business
                           of saving souls.



In Medieval times wives wore
chastity belts when their spouses
weren’t around. All were leather bound
and lockable…some lined with silk,
others bejeweled.

The keys were custom made
from precious metals.
If her husband was a noble,
he’d have chosen gold; gilded
with their family crest.

Women were deemed the weaker sex;
fair prey for troubadours wandering
from castle to castle, waxing poetically
about forbidden fruit.
They were also musicians who could
make a lute sound sweeter                                                                                          than plums, as bitter as quince.




June-August 2020

The first publication of Scruples was in three by 3,  December 2013-February 2014. Numbers 1 and 2 were complimented with sound files.  The latest, #17, was posted in March-May 2020. This is their first reprise with more to come!

All told: “The idea of scruples has to do with ethics and morality: what is right and wrong. Scruples are a kind of moral compass that lets you know what’s right.”  ( )


Last night a meteorite fell
on our lawn. It’s as big
as a birdbath, but not
smooth and round, or white.

This one’s the darkest
we’ve seen since moving in.
Pitch black I´d say.
Also, more furrowed.

Around here, they come from
time to time. So far,
none’ve hit a house, just
backyards. Our’s landed
beside the rose garden.
Thank heaven it didn’t
singe any.


The gate opens easily
because its hinges’ ve been oiled.
Now he can come and go
without feeling guilty.

But what about the latch?
Rusty…a spring’s missing…
another’s in pieces…
Tomorrow, next week, month,
it won’t work at all.
Then he’ll be locked out, or in.


Lazarus´s alive. He’s eating breakfast
with his sisters. On the table
there’s fresh fruit, hot bread,
enough tea for everyone, including
well wishers who’ll soon
be swarming in like locusts.

Mary and Martha´re crying, but not
for joy. A pall’s fallen over the room.
He’s confused, angry…says
he was on the way to heaven
when it turned into a back
road to Bethany…that
their meddling in his afterlife
did more harm than good.                                                                                                  Published  in The Columbia Review         



March-May 2020

A rarity in three by 3 is a posting of only new poems. “Soul Searching’s Right of Way”, Scruples #17,  “The Advent of Spring” were written between January and May 2020. They’re also posted in the order written.


Soul Searching’s Right of Way

So long as this trail wends
                        over hills, down dales,
lies steeped in sunlight, babbled
                         to by a passing brook—
on those grounds we spend a summer
                         day, hour after hour,
until dusk comes, and with it
                          a trail lurking in the dark…
Summer nights are heavenly sent—
                           when the moon beams,
lone stars cluster together.
                           In time, shadows show up,
some standing, others on the go—
                           between then and dawn
they appear everywhere, without
                           crossing our path.




His eminence, hours into a tedious
speech about theology
in everyday space and time,
reaches a mute point.

Say no more, Aquinas, listen as heaven
revels, high strung harps pair
with dancing angels, corpus diem,
around the head of a pin…

To tell the truth, you’ve shown
they can in so many words.
Still riddled with doubt
is the nature of their gender,
be it male, female, or neither?


The Advent of Spring


Before sunrise many will congregate
around the church in utter silence,
all eyes uplifted, towards the steeple—
clerks, merchants, butchers, bakers
mingle with bankers and lawyers,
the mayor amongst them, standing alone.

The time of their lives is about to change—
 now that winter’s waned spring
 should be promising, a warm welcome
 for kindred spirits who kept out
 of harm’s way by staying indoors.
 And so, as the town stirs, windows
 open, streets become walkable,
 fountains bloom in every plaza.

 The vigil lasts until first light.
  By then bells ring free of the icy grip
  that had stilled their tongues.
  Crystal clear they chime, a blessing
  upon those also beholden
  to the season’s better nature.


December 2019-February 2020

“Seasonal Unemployment,” “How to Succeed in Apiculture,” and ‘The Industrialization of Silk” were posted in three by 3, September-November 2014. Subsequently, the poetry journal miller’s pond published them in their winter 2017 edition.

This reprise offers three by 3 followers another chance to read the poems together under the theme “Working conditions.”


Seasonal Unemployment


Once I was a scarecrow
with acres of corn in my care.
I watched generations of seeds
grow up and flourish.
They made me feel alive.

Since then, with each harvest
leaving me less to do,
more to reflect on,
it´s becoming
as clear as clouds
that I´m no longer
needed by the farmer
who made me his
stand in.

Now, autumn´s night frost
freeze dries my stitches,
and every day almost
winter winds pick them apart.
Limb by limb, I´m losing
all my inner support:
straw´s running out,
a broomstick’s severed.

In a barn, somewhere,
there´s a man
weighing his good fortune.
And here I am — over the hill,
facing a field full
of nothing.


How to Succeed in Apiculture


Plenty of bees swarming around
his hive, others flying in,
and out…

With veiled enthusiasm,
he’s there to take stock of the boxes,
prying not to upset any
while looking for honeycombs.
Those chosen for culling
should be found dripping, larger
than a man’s hands.
For stowing, his back’s strapped with a knapsack
which, like always, should soon be bulging;
by the end of summer,
much too small.

As for the bees, they’d
be a wild bunch without him;
their nest no more than a batch
of wax branching from a tree
nowhere near this pasture sown
with rye and clover.     


The Industrialization of Silk


One summer, with the Empire in full bloom,
the mulberry trees stood leafless,
their branches alive with
tea colored cocoons.
Legend says that some fell
into a bucket of boiling water,
ending up as threads ready for weaving.

The first bolt was rushed to Court—
a fabric so fine it tingled, so light
it fluttered from hand to hand.
Finally, after much discussion
and no consensus, the Emperor decreed
that only nobles who paid taxes
could trade in silk.
He also forbade exporting
the eggs, with good reason…
Outside his realm, rulers
were as greedy as thieves,
and ruthless.   

That was millenniums ago.
Now all sorts of bolts, from crepe
to taffeta, are produced, worldwide,
on high-speed looms. And thanks to genetics,
the larvae eat less, grow faster, spin
larger cocoons. Even the dirty work
of boiling is automated; no longer
done by artisans on a small scale.
Given today’s growing demand for silk,
the worms need to be massacred.

September-November 2019

Included in three by 3 of September-November 2018 was “Calliope’s Conundrum”. The creativity and resourcefulness of the Muse also figures in The Tales of the Arabian Nights. Her name is Scheherzade  and she became the inspiration for “At Long Last the Sultan’s Won Over”.

Scruples #1 appeared in three by 3, December 2013-February 2014. Along with an explanation of intent, an audio clip reading was attached. #16 is the latest entry.

While critiquing my poems recently, I realized that none were written in the first person. “O Me, O My,” hopefully settles the score, once and for all.

At Long Last the Sultan’s Won Over

“In this oasis, the king cobra
reigns supreme, his real estate
a lot of palms that can stand the sun,
as well as water rights over
a fountain waiting in the shade.

Trade bound caravans cross the desert
from dawn to dusk, along a silk route
which, if all goes well, finds them
heading steadily for the horizon.

Come nights they’re bound to tent
down among the dunes, pitched
against wind and restless sand.
Far better than out in the open
is an oasis of untold wonders…”


Putting it into words takes
heart, imagination, a lullaby.
Among the Sultan’s brides, one spins tales
which please him over and over,
by now numbering a thousand.
How many more before she’s home free?
Woe upon Scheherazade whose chances
for a happy ending are subject
to his bidding, her services rendered.



Being born losers ups the odds
to dead set against us.
We game each day until
there’s none in play.

Luck, as it so happens, can run
short or long, change direction,
swing from good to bad.
Our lot takes chances by choice.
Dealing with all kinds at any time
makes us gamblers for life.



       O Me, O My

Lyric relates to poetry of limited length expressing
thoughts and especially subjective feelings.*




                2                                                    i…






Which of these selves can write a sonnet
so versed in rhyme and meter
that when read aloud it rings as true
as the “doodle dos” of a cock at dawn;
whose words, on paper, not only meet
the eye, they make a lasting impression?

May the bard within Michael Bates rise,
body and soul, befitting the occasion.


*A Reader’s Guide to Literary Terms
Beckson and Ganz

June-August 2019

This posting marks three by 3’s eighth year of publication. In commemoration, three poems are reprised:  “On Andean Time” was originally posted in December 2014, “The Main Attraction in Marrakesh,”  December 2015  and  “A Self Guided Tour of Pompeii,”  March 2017.  Accordingly, they all relate to a place within a context of time.

On Andean Time

By degrees, the lower slopes turn
into a kaleidoscope—
on one side, blue mingles with white,
a split image of the sky.
On the other, yellow flashes—
as bright as sunlight…

In winter these slopes look like
the rest of the mountain—
no flowers blooming out
of season, only near and far
the cold glow of snow.


The Main Attraction in Marrakesh

On weekdays, as a rule,
the market opens
after morning prayers,
closes before evening call…

The old wall looks like a floor
covered with rugs in a range
of sizes, shapes, magic colors.
Whenever the wind blows,
they wave for attention.

Perfume vendors mind booths
lined with shelves.
They sell by scent, amount,
choice of bottle.
Each promises more
than he can deliver.

The spice stalls make
breathing a pleasure.
Deep draughts, one
after another, bring out
their best and worst.

In a tent armed with guards,
there’s much to see,
but not touch.
Glass counters, aisle
by aisle, showcase rare gems,
jewels fit for a sheik.

Tourists are always welcome,
even those who only
browse, complain about
the dust and heat.
Shoppers with hard currency
can buy whatever they want.


A Self Guided Tour of Pompeii


The citizens of Pompeii worshiped lots of gods—
publicly in temples, privately at home.
Jove, Jupiter, Minerva, Apollo, topped the rosters.
Thanks to them fortune fared good or bad.
More, but of lesser stature, meddled in household affairs.
The Lares enshrined within atriums look human,
dress alike, carry buckets laden with wine,
big and small horns for serving.


Tourists visiting the City view Vesuvius
to the north, weather permitting.
Its dark side hides within a deep crater
that can erupt at any time.
The latest, in 1944, lasted a week,
razed an allied air base, neighboring towns,
buckled the strada to Naples.


On display among the ruins
lie mummies from all walks of life.
Cooling lava cast them, by chance,
in their final moments.
They remain mute while plaques
in French, Italian, English,
cite facts and figures
incapable of explaining why.

March-May 2019

“By Design and On Purpose” was posted in three by 3, September-November 2013. Since then, it was submitted to several journals for publication and accepted by Verse-Virtual. Their website is The volume date is April 2019.

I spent my end of year holidays in Brazil. “Last Laugh In the Funhouse” was begun before, worked on during, completed after returning home.  Like its predecessors, Scruples #15 deals with moral concerns. In this case, how time puts them in perspective.

By Design and On Purpose

   For Leslie Kingston

Lighthouses are put there to stay.
In no way should they
at any time, go off fishing,
out for lunch, look forward
to holidays—none on the horizon.
If they did, who’d warn boats
about local currents,
which ones spit shoals
which  braid channels?

Likewise, lighthouses are put there to last.
Above all, they’re trussworthy spines
of steel rolled in concrete—
tons of each—raised to face
sunstroke one day, wind bites another,
no turning away
from whatever the weather wants.
How long should they soar?
As big and bright as possible
without much upkeep:
between seasons
a change of lenses,
lamps nightly,
after blackouts, new fuses.

On paper—technically blueprints—
lighthouses are rendered
with reliability in mind.
From top down, they’re designed
to hold their ground,
stand fast on a cliff
or bluff, be seen
for miles, over and over.


Last Laugh In the Funhouse


Among the attractions
there’s always a back room
haunted by mirrors.
Above the entrance—
intruders are welcome
flashes off and on,
along with a green neon
arrow pointing forward.


Within appears deserted,
dim as a dungeon;
but before long, one after
another, reflections show up
on both sides, back and forth…
What poses for fun is figuring
out who looks like who,
whether they match a good
or bad impression?




Let’s sing Happy Birthday together.
Those who can remember
the words, still carry a tune,
please gather around the table.

Someone should lower the curtains…
another bring in the cake…

How many candles are lit?
Our lot awaits with baited breath
until the time comes to blow
them out, while we’re able.

December 2018-February 2019

Two previously posted poems in three by 3, “Origins on Galapagos”  (December 2014-February 2015) and ” Watch Closely, Listen Carefully”  (June-August 2018) were accepted for publication in the April 2019 online edition of Waterways. Their website is  An encouraging start for 2019…

My first international position was sales representative for the McGraw-Hill Book Company. Our office for the Caribbean territory was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Casals residence was not far from where I lived. On occasion I passed by, but never had the pleasure of a chance encounter!

Origins on Galapagos

Lucky ducks, though they’re terns,
that can always bank on
a cornucopia surfacing around them?
marooned onshore pools
with kelp, eelgrass, crabs
clinging to the bottom…

Their ancestors also fared well,
as per my post mortem memory.
Enough to establish a flock of birds
with blood lines tied to flowing tides.

My kind died out long ago,
overcome by an unstable volcano.
Had our wings been bigger
we’d have flown off the island;
or swam away if we’d known how.

Likewise, I can recall when
the first newcomber was spotted
poking around one sunrise.
He appeared alone, but as the sky shined
others showed up, mouthing sounds
like “right here” and “Dr. Darwin.”
Each day they arrived early, left
after hovering over scores of nests.

Naturally, they never saw a feather
nor heard us chirping.
We were no more than a body of ashes
left behind like lava? the darkest part
of the sand they stepped on
while doing their legwork
up and down dunes.
They came close, though,
those curious creatures
that ran around stalking terns.


Watch Closely, Listen Carefully


The sounds an owl mouths
            while stalking earmark
                       whether –he’s on a limb
                                    holding tight, or airborne,
                                                above the trees, biding time
                                                            for a swoop…

Ground shadows—mice and the like—
after a field day tracking down seeds,
appear in a hurry to hole up,
ahead of what stirs at dusk…

Blink by blink an owl awakes.
Night finds him wide eyed—
on high alert, aiming
to catch sight of stragglers.

Sly minded, he mulls them
            over—who, who, who?—
                           before making a choice.
                                    Those within close range
                                                  can hear him coming,
                                                              hoot upon hoot.


El Maestro At Home-Puerto Rico 1971


While sitting on his balcony
Sr. Casals becomes an audience of one
looking towards the horizon…

As far as he can see—the sky
and sea mirror shades of indigo
native to the Caribbean, hardly
any clouds, the sun at its brightest;
within hearing distance—breezes
tugging on palm fronds, a beach
combed by wave upon wave,
gulls squawking over flotsam…

Via sights and sounds his virtuosity
comes into play—con mucho gusto
he’ll perform a suite for cello
to the tempo of a merengue.